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PROVINCE PREPARES TO EASE RESTRICTIONS
By: Mylen Manto, Eleanor Valeros | Published Wednesday, May 06, 2020
The Task Force New Normal discusses the measures to be implemented as Cebu Province shifts from enhanced to general community quarantine on May 16. (Junjie Mendoza)

Depending on the advice from the Department of Health, the Cebu Provincial Government may lift some of the restrictions imposed by the enhanced community quarantine status (ECQ), by shifting to a general community quarantine mode on May 16.

Barring any other developments to the contrary, a shift in the status would mean that 30 percent of public transport may now be seen on the roads. 

Lifting the ECQ for Cebu Province’s towns and cities, however, does not mean that life in the communities would go back to what it was before Covid-19. Public health measures will still be in place, such as the wearing of masks and physical distancing in public places. 

“ECQ can’t go on forever kay ang labing nag-antos ang labing ubos, kadtong mga nawad-an og trabaho, nahibilin sa balay, kadtong mga nag-drive og public transportation…ang informal workers,” according to Governor Gwendolyn Garcia. 

She convened last May 5 the Province’s Task Force New Normal which she created through Executive Order No. 14.

The task force will lead formulation of policies in the resumption of businesses, public transport, and schools, among others.

“However, we have to accept that the old normal is gone so we can adjust and adapt to a whole new world,” Garcia emphasized.

Among the guidelines to be observed in workplaces and public spaces is the continued mandatory wearing of face masks, according to Capitol consultant Atty. Rory Jon Sepulveda, the chairman of the task force. 

“Another is the continued observance of social distancing, preferably two meters; the putting up of hand washing stations, the mandatory checking of body temperature whenever people gather in number,” Sepulveda added.

Transportation

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 Director Eduardo Montealto, Jr. said that only 30 percent of the public transportation in Cebu will operate under GCQ. 

Special permit is free of charge and will be issued for the duration of the GCQ.

“Thirty percent lang kay di pa man nato mahibaw-an unsa nga mga establishments ang mangabri,” he said. If the need arises, then they will allow additional public transport, he added. 

The LTFRB will be prioritizing public utility buses (PUB), followed by modernized jeepneys, and UV Express. Taxicabs will have to follow a week after, if need arises.

For the three cities – Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu – Montealto said that they already conducted a workshop and it’s the said Local Government Units (LGUs) which will define the routes and on how many buses will be used during the GCQ.

Because public transport shall be operating in a limited capacity and social distancing will be strictly observed, an increase in fare is imminent.

“Sa tanan, 50 percent ra ang makasakay. So duna ta’y gamay nga increase sa matrix. Unya sa GCQ, for the ordinary bus or non-aircon bus, from P9 mo-increase ni siya og P11 for the first five kilometers and the succeeding will be P1.85. Sa aircon nga bus, from P11 mahimo na siyang P13 for the first five kilometers and ang succeeding is P2.20,” he said based on LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2020-17.

Montealto said that if there is still a shortage of buses, modernized jeepneys, UV Express, and taxis, they will allow the public utility jeepneys (PUJs) to operate with an increase in fare matrix from P8 to P9.50.

Meanwhile, taxis and TNVS (transport network vehicle service) will not impose fare hike during the GCQ, he added.

Land Transportation Office (LTO) 7 Director Victor Caindec said that under the GCQ, there are still restrictions on who can go out.

Thus, he encouraged the LGUs to impose speed limit within their territories because accidents still occurred even under the ECQ.

Officials from the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said that they already crafted their learning continuity plan and learning flexible system for both online and offline.

Under GCQ, schools have to observe strict social distancing, according to Dr. Salustiano Jimenez, director of DepEd 7.

Agribusiness

Among the highlights of the transitions to be adopted is “invigorating the countryside with economic opportunities so people won’t have to flock to urban areas.”

“We will be transitioning from ECQ to ECD or enhanced countryside development which encourages a plan with emphasis on the enhancement of the agricultural capacity of the different local government units in order for them to be self-sufficient,” the governor underlined.

“Again we are not self-sufficient. We are at the mercy of those with rice, and those with corn. We only have ‘baboy’ (pig) which is ASF-free (free from African Swine Fever virus),” she added.

“We have scarcely ten days to May 16 and that’s 240 hours. But that’s a lot of time if we only focus our energies into it. I call upon our government agencies especially those in the regulatory functions, ang policymaking function ninyo dako kaayo’g matabang aning mahimong work plan sa task force,” Garcia further said.

As a response, Steven Yu who heads the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that because slowdown in real estate is foreseen, MCCI members look to pour investment more into the agribusiness sector which is the call of the times.

For Felix Taguiam, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he expressed how “Cebu knows innovation well and businesses know how to change, change according to the times and that the envisioned transition from ECQ to ECD can best be achieved with the Filipino’s timeless spirit of ‘bayanihan’ (solidarity).” 

“You have kept the economy going through the years. Surely you know how to restart it,” the governor remarked.

The collaborating agencies seen to be integral in the said transition are the Departments of Health, Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Education, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, LTFRB, LTO, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and the chairpersons of the various committees of the Provincial Board.

These agencies are grouped into subcommittees. Inputs for the work plan are expected by Friday, May 8. (Eleanor Valeros and Mylen Manto)